Asbestos Still A Big Problem In Schools

13 Jun 2019

According to the National Education Union (NEU), more than 200 teachers in the UK have died from mesothelioma since 2001.

John Hall, specialist asbestos solicitor at Trethowans, has acted for a number of them and has particular knowledge of the risks associated with asbestos used in the construction of schools in the years following the end of World War 2 until the 1980s.

Asbestos was commonly used in the construction of temporary buildings and in more surprising areas such as notice boards. Because of the risks associated with asbestos exposure this is a concern for all of the people attending schools in this period: children and their teachers, kitchen staff, caretakers, school nurses, school secretaries, etc.

Recent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests across the country have revealed the extent of the problem of asbestos in schools. For example, just over half of schools in the North West are known to contain asbestos. Because of the numbers on non-LEA controlled schools in that region there is insufficient data available to determine whether or not a further 44% of schools contain asbestos.

In another example, 46 of the 53 schools controlled by Solihull Council were found to contain asbestos. Twelve schools were listed as containing crocidolite (blue asbestos) which is the most harmful type of asbestos.

A survey by the NEU in March 2017 found that 46% of teachers had been told that their school contained asbestos but about half of those had not been told where it was located. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requires all employers to notify them if asbestos is released into the air “sufficient to cause potential damage to the health of any person.” The regulations do not require the number of school staff and pupils so affected to be included within that notification.

This is of particular concern when it comes to the health of pupils. The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COC) which advises the government on issues around cancer, was asked by the Department for Education to look at the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos compared with adults.

In its final report, published in 2013 after a two-year study, it says: “Because of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age five, compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about five times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.”

We have seen an increase in cases arising from asbestos in schools. If you suspect you have an asbestos related condition, we suggest you make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Contact specialist asbestos lawyer John Hall today on 023 8082 0526 for further advice.

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